Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cosmic Times at the Reservoir

This afternoon I went for a walk at the nearby reservoir.  Sailboats were sailing.

The sight put me in mind of the chorus from Donovan's trippy, hippie, pantheist song Happiness Runs from his 1969 album Barabajagal:

Happiness runs in a circular motion  
Thought is like a little boat upon the sea  
Everybody is a part of everything anyway  
You can have everything if you let yourself be

While walking through the reservoir I saw milkweed in bloom.  The five-petaled blossoms look like miniature starfish.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hiking the Enchanted Forest Trail

I took a leisurely hike on the well-named Enchanted Forest Trail.  During the course of about a mile I went down through four different micro-climates: evergreen forest, aspen forest, tall grass, and finally desert weeds and cactus.

I noticed two more wildflowers (assuming you will permit the humble dandelion to be called a wildflower).

Justice Scalia's DOMA Dissent

I read Justice Antonin Scalia's brilliant dissent against the majority ruling in the United States v. Windsor case (aka striking down the Defense of Marriage Act).

Favorite quote:  "To be sure (as the majority points out), the legislation is called the Defense of Marriage Act. But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution."  

I might have said "disgraces this institution" instead, but I'll defer to the learned Justice. 

Here is Scalia's dissent, with the exception of the passages concerning the role of the Court and jurisdictional issues.  See the Supreme Court website for the full dissent.

1 Cite as: 570 U. S. ____ (2013) SCALIA, J., dissenting

No. 12–307
[June 26, 2013]
JUSTICE SCALIA, with whom JUSTICE THOMAS joins,and with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins as to Part I,dissenting.
This case is about power in several respects. It is about the power of our people to govern themselves, and the power of this Court to pronounce the law. Today’s opinion aggrandizes the latter, with the predictable consequence of diminishing the former. We have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.
The Court is eager—hungry—to tell everyone its view of the legal question at the heart of this case. Standing in the way is an obstacle, a technicality of little interest to anyone but the people of We the People, who created it as a barrier against judges’ intrusion into their lives. They gave judges, in Article III, only the “judicial Power,” a power to decide not abstract questions but real, concrete “Cases” and “Controversies.” Yet the plaintiff and the Government agree entirely on what should happen in this lawsuit. They agree that the court below got it right; and they agreed in the court below that the court below that one got it right as well. What, then, are we doing here?
The answer lies at the heart of the jurisdictional portion of today’s opinion, where a single sentence lays bare the majority’s vision of our role. The Court says that we have the power to decide this case because if we did not, then our “primary role in determining the constitutionality of a law” (at least one that “has inflicted real injury on a plaintiff ”) would “become only secondary to the President’s.” Ante, at 12. But wait, the reader wonders—Windsor won below, and so cured her injury, and the President was glad to see it. True, says the majority, but judicial review must march on regardless, lest we “undermine the clear dictate of the separation-of-powers principle that when an Act of Congress is alleged to conflict with the Constitution, it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Ibid. (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted).
That is jaw-dropping. It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere “primary” in its role.
This image of the Court would have been unrecognizable to those who wrote and ratified our national charter. They knew well the dangers of “primary” power, and so created branches of government that would be “perfectly coordinate by the terms of their common commission,” none of which branches could “pretend to an exclusive or superior right of settling the boundaries between their respective powers.” The Federalist, No. 49, p. 314 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961) (J. Madison). The people did this to protect themselves. They did it to guard their right to self-rule against the black-robed supremacy that today’s majority finds so attractive. So it was that Madison could confidently state, with no fear of contradiction, that there was nothing of “greater intrinsic value” or “stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty” than a government of separate and coordinate powers.

[extended discussion about the role of the Court and lack of jurisdiction for this case]

To be sure, if Congress cannot invoke our authority in the way that JUSTICE ALITO proposes, then its only recourse is to confront the President directly. Unimaginable evil this is not. Our system is designed for confrontation. That is what “[a]mbition . . . counteract[ing] ambition,” The Federalist, No. 51, at 322 (J. Madison), is all about. If majorities in both Houses of Congress care enough about the matter, they have available innumerable ways to compel executive action without a lawsuit—from refusing to confirm Presidential appointees to the elimination of funding. (Nothing says “enforce the Act” quite like “. . . or you will have money for little else.”) But the condition is crucial; Congress must care enough to act against the President itself, not merely enough to instruct its lawyers to ask us to do so. Placing the Constitution’s entirely anticipated political arm wrestling into permanent judicial receivership does not do the system a favor. And by the way, if the President loses the lawsuit but does not faithfully implement the Court’s decree, just as he did not faithfully implement Congress’s statute, what then? Only Congress can bring him to heel by . . . what do you think? Yes: a direct confrontation with the President.

For the reasons above, I think that this Court has, and the Court of Appeals had, no power to decide this suit. We should vacate the decision below and remand to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, with instructions to dismiss the appeal. Given that the majority has volunteered its view of the merits, however, I proceed to discuss that as well.


There are many remarkable things about the majority’s merits holding. The first is how rootless and shifting its justifications are. For example, the opinion starts with seven full pages about the traditional power of States to define domestic relations—initially fooling many readers, I am sure, into thinking that this is a federalism opinion.But we are eventually told that “it is unnecessary to decide whether this federal intrusion on state power is a violation of the Constitution,” and that “[t]he State’s power in defining the marital relation is of central relevance in this case quite apart from principles of federalism” because “the State’s decision to give this class of persons the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import.” Ante, at 18. But no one questions the power of the States to define marriage (with the concomitant conferral of dignity and status), so what is the point of devoting seven pages to describing how long and well established that power is? Even after the opinion has formally disclaimed reliance upon principles of federalism,mentions of “the usual tradition of recognizing and accepting state definitions of marriage” continue. See, e.g., ante,at 20. What to make of this? The opinion never explains.My guess is that the majority, while reluctant to suggest that defining the meaning of “marriage” in federal statutes is unsupported by any of the Federal Government’s enumerated powers,4 nonetheless needs some rhetorical basis to support its pretense that today’s prohibition of
[Footnote 4Such a suggestion would be impossible, given the Federal Government’s long history of making pronouncements regarding marriage—for example, conditioning Utah’s entry into the Union upon its prohibition of polygamy. See Act of July 16, 1894, ch. 138, §3, 28 Stat. 108 (“The constitution [of Utah]” must provide “perfect toleration of religious sentiment,” “Provided, That polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited”).]

laws excluding same-sex marriage is confined to the Fed­eral Government (leaving the second, state-law shoe to be dropped later, maybe next Term). But I am only guessing.
Equally perplexing are the opinion’s references to “the Constitution’s guarantee of equality.” Ibid. Near the end of the opinion, we are told that although the “equal protec­tion guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment makes [the] Fifth Amendment [due process] right all the more specific and all the better understood and preserved”—what can that mean?—“the Fifth Amendment itself withdraws from Government the power to degrade or demean in the way this law does.” Ante, at 25. The only possible interpretation of this statement is that the Equal Protection Clause,even the Equal Protection Clause as incorporated in the Due Process Clause, is not the basis for today’s holding.But the portion of the majority opinion that explains why DOMA is unconstitutional (Part IV) begins by citing Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U. S. 497 (1954), Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U. S. 528 (1973), and Romer v. Evans, 517 U. S. 620 (1996)—all of which are equal protection cases.5 And those three cases are the only authorities that the Court cites in Part IV about the Constitution’s meaning, except for its citation of Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558 (2003) (not an equal-protection case) to support its passing assertion that the Constitution protects the “moral and sexual choices” of same-sex couples, ante, at 23.
Moreover, if this is meant to be an equal-protection opinion, it is a confusing one. The opinion does not resolve and indeed does not even mention what had been the central question in this litigation: whether, under the Equal Protection Clause, laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman are reviewed for more than mere rationality. That is the issue that divided the parties and the court below, compare Brief for Respondent Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of U. S. House of Representatives (merits) 24–28 (no), with Brief for Respondent Windsor (merits) 17–31 and Brief for United States (merits) 18–36(yes); and compare 699 F. 3d 169, 180–185 (CA2 2012) (yes), with id., at 208–211 (Straub, J., dissenting in part and concurring in part) (no). In accord with my previously expressed skepticism about the Court’s “tiers of scrutiny”approach, I would review this classification only for its rationality. See United States v. Virginia, 518 U. S. 515, 567–570 (1996) (SCALIA, J., dissenting). As nearly as I can tell, the Court agrees with that; its opinion does not apply strict scrutiny, and its central propositions are taken from rational-basis cases like Moreno. But the Court certainly does not apply anything that resembles that deferential framework. See Heller v. Doe, 509 U. S. 312, 320 (1993) (a classification “‘must be upheld . . . if there is any reasonably conceivable state of facts’” that could justify it).
The majority opinion need not get into the strict-vs.rational-basis scrutiny question, and need not justify its holding under either, because it says that DOMA is unconstitutional as “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution,” ante, at 25; that it violates “basic due process” principles, ante, at 20; and that it inflicts an “injury and indignity” of a kind that denies “an essential part of the liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment,” ante, at 19. The majority never utters the dread words “substantive due process,” perhaps sensing the disrepute into which that doctrine has fallen, but that is what those statements mean. Yet the opinion does not argue that same-sex marriage is“deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 720–721 (1997), a claim that would of course be quite absurd. So would the further suggestion (also necessary, under our substantive-due-process precedents) that a world in which OMA exists is one bereft of “‘ordered liberty.’” Id., at 721 (quoting Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U. S. 319, 325 (1937)).
Some might conclude that this loaf could have used awhile longer in the oven. But that would be wrong; it is already overcooked. The most expert care in preparation cannot redeem a bad recipe. The sum of all the Court’s nonspecific hand-waving is that this law is invalid (maybe on equal-protection grounds, maybe on substantive due process grounds, and perhaps with some amorphous federalism component playing a role) because it is motivated by a “‘bare . . . desire to harm’” couples in same-sex marriages. Ante, at 20. It is this proposition with which I will therefore engage.

As I have observed before, the Constitution does not forbid the government to enforce traditional moral and sexual norms. See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558, 599 (2003) (SCALIA, J., dissenting). I will not swell the U. S. Reports with restatements of that point. It is enough to say that the Constitution neither requires nor forbids our society to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol.However, even setting aside traditional moral disapproval of same-sex marriage (or indeed same-sex sex),there are many perfectly valid—indeed, downright boring—justifying rationales for this legislation. Their existence ought to be the end of this case. For they give the lie to the Court’s conclusion that only those with hateful hearts could have voted “aye” on this Act. And more importantly, they serve to make the contents of the legislators’ hearts quite irrelevant: “It is a familiar principle of constitutional law that this Court will not strike down an otherwise constitutional statute on the basis of an alleged illicit legislative motive.” United States v. O’Brien, 391 U. S. 367, 383 (1968). Or at least it was a familiar principle. By holding to the contrary, the majority has declared open season on any law that (in the opinion of the law’s opponents and any panel of like-minded federal judges) can be characterized as mean-spirited.
The majority concludes that the only motive for this Act was the “bare . . . desire to harm a politically unpopular group.” Ante, at 20. Bear in mind that the object of this condemnation is not the legislature of some once-Confederate Southern state (familiar objects of the Court’s scorn, see, e.g., Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U. S. 578 (1987)), but our respected coordinate branches, the Congress and Presidency of the United States. Laying such a charge against them should require the most extraordinary evidence, and I would have thought that every attempt would be made to indulge a more anodyne explanation for the statute. The majority does the opposite—affirmatively concealing from the reader the arguments that exist in justification. It makes only a passing mention of the “arguments put forward” by the Act’s defenders, and does not even trouble to paraphrase or describe them. See ante, at 21. I imagine that this is because it is harder to maintain the illusion of the Act’s supporters as unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob when one first describes their views as they see them.
To choose just one of these defenders’ arguments, DOMA avoids difficult choice-of-law issues that will now arise absent a uniform federal definition of marriage. See, e.g., Baude, Beyond DOMA: Choice of State Law in Fed- eral Statutes, 64 Stan. L. Rev. 1371 (2012). Imagine a pair of women who marry in Albany and then move to Alabama, which does not “recognize as valid any marriage of parties of the same sex.” Ala. Code §30–1–19(e) (2011). When the couple files their next federal tax return, may it be a joint one? Which State’s law controls, for federal-law purposes: their State of celebration (which recognizes the marriage) or their State of domicile (which does not)? (Does the answer depend on whether they were just visiting in Albany?) Are these questions to be answered as a matter of federal common law, or perhaps by borrowing a State’s choice-of-law rules? If so, which State’s? And what about States where the status of an out-of-state same-sex marriage is an unsettled question under local law? See Godfrey v. Spano, 13 N. Y. 3d 358, 920 N. E. 2d 328 (2009). DOMA avoided all of this uncertainty by specifying which marriages would be recognized for federal purposes. That is a classic purpose for a definitional provision.
Further, DOMA preserves the intended effects of prior legislation against then-unforeseen changes in circumstance. When Congress provided (for example) that a special estate-tax exemption would exist for spouses, this exemption reached only opposite-sex spouses—those being the only sort that were recognized in any State at the time of DOMA’s passage. When it became clear that changes instate law might one day alter that balance, DOMA’s definitional section was enacted to ensure that state-level experimentation did not automatically alter the basic operation of federal law, unless and until Congress made the further judgment to do so on its own. That is not animus—just stabilizing prudence. Congress has hardly demonstrated itself unwilling to make such further, revising judgments upon due deliberation. See, e.g., Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, 124 Stat. 3515.
The Court mentions none of this. Instead, it accuses the Congress that enacted this law and the President who signed it of something much worse than, for example, having acted in excess of enumerated federal powers—or even having drawn distinctions that prove to be irrational. Those legal errors may be made in good faith, errors though they are. But the majority says that the supporters of this Act acted with malice—with the “purpose” (ante, at 25) “to disparage and to injure” same-sex couples. It says that the motivation for DOMA was to “demean,” ibid.; to “impose inequality,” ante, at 22; to “impose . . . a stigma,” ante, at 21; to deny people “equal dignity,” ibid.; to brand gay people as “unworthy,” ante, at 23; and to “humiliat[e]” their children, ibid. (emphasis added).
I am sure these accusations are quite untrue. To be sure (as the majority points out), the legislation is called the Defense of Marriage Act. But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.

* * *

The penultimate sentence of the majority’s opinion is a naked declaration that “[t]his opinion and its holding are confined” to those couples “joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State.” Ante, at 26, 25. I have heard such “bald, unreasoned disclaimer[s]” before. Lawrence, 539 U. S., at 604. When the Court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with “whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.” Id., at  578. Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it “demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects,” ante, at 23—with an accompanying citation of Lawrence. It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will “confine” the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.

I do not mean to suggest disagreement with THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s view, ante, p. 2–4 (dissenting opinion), that lower federal courts and state courts can distinguish today’s case when the issue before them is state denial of marital status to same-sex couples—or even that this Court could theoretically do so. Lord, an opinion with such scatter-shot rationales as this one (federalism noises among them) can be distinguished in many ways. And deserves to be. State and lower federal courts should take the Court at its word and distinguish away.
In my opinion, however, the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion. As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow, is that DOMA is motivated by “ ‘bare . . . desire to harm’” couples in same-sex marriages. Supra, at 18. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status. Consider how easy (inevitable) it is to make the following substitutions in a passage from today’s opinion ante, at 22:

DOMA’s This state law’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages constitutionally protected sexual relationships, see Lawrence, and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA this state law contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State enjoying constitutionally protected sexual relationships, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities.”
Or try this passage, from ante, at 22–23: “[DOMA] This state law tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages relationships are unworthy of federal state recognition.This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage relationship. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, see Lawrence, . . . .”
Or this, from ante, at 23—which does not even require alteration, except as to the invented number: “And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own familyand its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”

Similarly transposable passages—deliberately transposable, I think—abound. In sum, that Court which finds it so horrific that Congress irrationally and hatefully robbed same-sex couples of the “personhood and dignity” which state legislatures conferred upon them, will of a certitude be similarly appalled by state legislatures’ irrational and hateful failure to acknowledge that “personhood and dignity” in the first place. Ante, at 26. As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe.
By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. Henceforth those challengers will lead with this Court’s declaration that there is “no legitimate purpose” served by such a law, and will claim that the traditional definition has “the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure” the “personhood and dignity”of same-sex couples, see ante, at 25, 26. The majority’s limiting assurance will be meaningless in the face of language like that, as the majority well knows. That is why the language is there. The result will be a judicial distortion of our society’s debate over marriage—a debate that can seem in need of our clumsy “help” only to a member of this institution.
As to that debate: Few public controversies touch an institution so central to the lives of so many, and few inspire such attendant passion by good people on all sides.Few public controversies will ever demonstrate so vividly the beauty of what our Framers gave us, a gift the Court pawns today to buy its stolen moment in the spotlight: a system of government that permits us to rule ourselves. Since DOMA’s passage, citizens on all sides of the question have seen victories and they have seen defeats. There have been plebiscites, legislation, persuasion, and loud voices—in other words, democracy. Victories in one place 25 Cite as: 570 U. S. ____ (2013) for some, see North Carolina Const., Amdt. 1 (providing that “[m]arriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State”) (approved by a popular vote, 61% to 39% on May 8, 2012),6 are offset by victories in other places for others, see Maryland Question 6 (establishing “that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license”) (approved by a popular vote, 52% to 48%, on November 6, 2012).7 Even in a single State, the question has come out differently on different occasions. Compare Maine Question 1 (permitting “the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples”) (approved by a popular vote, 53% to 47%, on November 6, 2012)8 with Maine Question 1 (rejecting “the new law that lets same-sex couples marry”) (approved by a popular vote, 53% to 47%, on November 3, 2009).9
 In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated. It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle likethis one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s Court can handle. Too bad. A reminder that disagreement over something so fundamental as marriagecan still be politically legitimate would have been a fit task for what in earlier times was called the judicial temperament. We might have covered ourselves with honor today, by promising all sides of this debate that it was theirs to settle and that we would respect their resolution.We might have let the People decide.
But that the majority will not do. Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many. But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better. I dissent.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wildflowers and Other Stuff

Today I hiked the Grubstake trail and saw a few more interesting wildflowers.  As I've taken an excessive number of wildflower pictures during the last three days, these last seven will have to suffice for this season.

Here is a photograph of some mysterious objects that I initially thought were a bunch of grapes that a hiker had flung to the side of the trail.  Not so! 

But lacking botanical knowledge, I can only assume that these grape-like objects are some kind of seed pods.  If these little pods are related to the alien pods in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I would expect to soon see the foothills overrun with creepy emotionless replicas of field mice.

Finally, here is a photograph of three horses.  I suspect that the story of these horses began with a conversation between a rich geezer and his young trophy wife.

Geezer:  Baby, which horse would you like?  The light one, the dark one, or the tan one?

T. Wife:  It's so hard to make up my mind, darling!  Do I really have to choose?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Asian Landscape Perspective

An interesting entry on the "hbd* chick" (human biodiversity) blog pointed to a South Korean documentary (in English) about cultural differences, east and west.

Here's the link:

In the first part of the documentary, it was claimed that classical Chinese landscapes were often painted from an elevated or "bird's eye" perspective.

Traditional European landscape painting was said to typically use a perspective based at ground level.

So, for a lark, today I decided to take a photograph from atop Lookout Mountain and approximate an asian style of perspective.  (It was a hazy day and I'm a lousy landscape photographer, but the discerning reader will no doubt grasp my intention.)

More Wildflowers

I returned to hike up Lookout Mountain today and noticed some wildflowers that I had overlooked yesterday.

Ashley Sterne So That's That!

Another Ashley Sterne comic article, republished in The Urana Independent and Clear Hills Standard (NSW), March 12, 1920.

So That's That!

By Ashley Sterne.

I wasn't surprised when it started to ache. Any tooth would get tired and ache which had had to carry the burden of my wisdom inside it for so many years. My surprise was that it had remained in business so long without wanting to retire.

So one day I took my courage in both hands and a bag of money in the other, and went to find an excavator of molars. I found one in his front garden pulling horseradishes for practice.

"Step in," he cried. "Step right in and take a look at the papers. I will just fetch a gasometer of laughing-gas. and a syphon of cocaine, and then you shall have the time of your life."

I stepped into the dental chamber and read an ancient Bradshaw for a couple of hours. Then the toothmonger came in with the laughing-gas and the cocaine. He threw me into his chair – very comfortable one, totally out of  keeping with the base uses to which it was put – and screwed me up to the third storey.

"Now, if you will open your mouth – " he began. I did so.

"I shan't want to get inside," he added, hastily. "I only want to put this little mirror in, and take a peep round."

So I shut some of it. He then inserted a lot of tools and spread a little d'oyley over my tongue so that I couldn't utter a word.

"Tell me if this hurts," he said, selecting a crochet-hook, jabbing it into my tooth, and twiddling it about all among the wisdom.

I gurgled in the affirmative, and with great presence of mind the toothmonger managed to rescue the mirror, which I had nearly swallowed in my efforts to speak.

"Does this hurt less, or more?" he inquired, pushing the crochet-hook right in and tweaking the nerve with the end of it.

I gurgled wildly, and this time swallowed the mirror completely. I heard it chink against my works as it fell in.

"A trifle tender," he observed. "You must be gassed."

And before I could protest, and say that I preferred electric light to gas, he had filled up the vacant spaces in my mouth with india-rubber wedges, clapped a gas-mask over my face, and was pumping gas into me as if I were R34.

I passed peacefully away a few seconds later. When I came to, I observed the tooth-snatcher standing over me with a radiant smile.

"And so that's that!" he said, jubilantly, holding up a tooth that was apparently full of the very best wisdom.

"What is what?" I asked, as he tossed it into the waste-tooth basket, and tore the india-rubber wedges from my mouth.

"That is what," he said, indicating the disused tooth.

"And what's that?" I inquired, dazed with the gas.

"Two pounds ten and tenpence, exactly," replied the tusk-tinker.  "Ten-and-six for the extraction, one and-six amusement tax, half-a-crown the gas, plus ten per cent, increase owing to Peace prices, a penny for the receipt stamp, six shillings for income tax, and sundries – including fire, lights, boots, and attendance – thirty shillings."

I opened my bag of money and handed him a War Savings certificate, a bank-note for one pound fifteen and threepence, and a packet of pins.

It was not until I reached home, and the effects of the gas had quite worn off, that I realised that the wretched fang-filcher had pulled out the wrong tooth. The dud one was on my upper jaw; he had filched the corresponding tooth on the lower jaw. I felt most annoyed, and thought of going back and insisting on its being replaced.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps it was my fault. You know if you stick a mirror in your mouth and look at your top teeth they look like your lower ones in the mirror? You remember, too, that I accidentally gurgled his mirror into my works? Well, if you put two and two together, you will agree with me, I think, that this extract of wisdom is more likely to be a "that's that" than the other "that's that" that that toothmonger said was what his "that's that" was. What?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Flowers and Hang Gliders

I took an abbreviated hike up Lookout Mountain this morning.  My goal for the hike was to give careful attention to my surroundings and especially enjoy the wildflowers, which will shortly be cooked to brown ash by the coming week's 90+ degree weather.

While ascending the mountain I chanced to look above me and beheld four hang gliders (by which versatile term I can refer either to the craft or the rider) wafting about on the morning breezes.

Here, by way of proof to the skeptical reader, I present the photographs documenting my careful attention.

Ashley Sterne Terence My Pet Tadpole

Here is another breezy little Ashley Sterne comic article, republished in The Urana Independent and Clear Hills Standard, NSW, Australia on November 21, 1919.


Was It the Frog's Fault?

By Ashley Sterne.

I first met Terence when he was an egg, though he didn't look so much like an egg as a bubble out of a tapioca pudding.

I got it from a nest in one o£ those nice green ponds that you can smell half a mile away through a box respirator. I carried it home on the end of my finger, and placed it in a glass jar which had once contained a now obsolete confection called strawberry jam, which some of my more aged readers may possibly remember.

Every day I visited my egg, and brought it some little nourishing delicacy in order to stimulate it into becoming a tadpole with as little delay as possible.

Every day, too, I was pleased to notice that the little dark speck in the egg which (a naturalist fiend informed me) indicates its centre of gravity became a trifle larger. At first it was no bigger than a tiny dot. Then it grew as big as a diminutive spot. In a third stage it attained the dimensions of a small blob.

Thus it fattened day by day, until at length one morning I heard a noise like a tadpole being hatched, and rushing into the conservatory, I found that that was precisely what had happened. Imagine my joy when I saw that Terence had been born!

To celebrate the event I got him a little birthday-cake. At least, it wasn't exactly a birthday-cake, and I didn't actually give it to Terence. What I really did was to go out and have a gin-and-bitters.

The first thing that Terence did on emerging from the egg was to eat the shell, which I thought was most ungrateful of him. In my annoyance I nearly slapped him, but I remembered in time that one can't put an old head on young shoulders, and even if one could, Terence hadn't got any shoulders. My head, too, is not precisely what you would call an old one, though it's got the moth pretty badly in places. So that's that.

But what I really wanted to emphasise was that Terence was gifted with a voracious appetite. He might have been a City alderman.

Of course he grew at an enormous rate. Much to my satisfaction. My idea was to feed him up and exhibit him at the Royal Tadpole Society Show. I had read somewhere that tadpoles in the Mexican rivers often attain the size of footballs, and if I had only had a disused Mexican river, or even a secondhand one, I should have insisted on Terence drinking the lot. Unfortunately I couldn't obtain one, although I advertised in our Parish Magazine and wrote to the papers about it.

However, I managed to collect quite a lot of nourishment from our local duck-pond, with the result that Terence grew up so rapidly that at one time I thought I should have to have his glass jar re-blown.

And then, a week or so ago, a dreadful tragedy occurred. I had gone out to have a – that is, to get Terence another birthday-cake, leaving him alive and well and amusing himself with a nice water-lily I had procured for him. When I returned, Terence had disappeared. Instead, I found sitting on the water-lily a small but ferocious frog. It was clear what had happened. On going out I had foolishly left the front-garden gate open, the frog had broken in, found poor Terence, and eaten him. All that was left of him was his beautiful long silky tail. This I carefully retrieved, and now use it as a book-marker.

My naturalist friend, however, explains Terence's disappearance in a most ridiculous way. He maintains that the frog is a reincarnation of Terence the tadpole, which is absurd. If I accept this theory he will tell me next that Felix the frog will reincarnate successively  into Cuthbert the cocoon, Christopher the chrysalis, Basil the butterfly, Ezra the egg, Terence the tadpole once again, and so on ad infinitum until one of them turns giddy and really and truly dies.

There are limits even to my credulity.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ashley Sterne A Tunnel Tragedy

Here is another Miss Paggs story.

A Tunnel Tragedy.
(The Urana Independent and Clear Hills Standard, NSW.  March 19, 1920)

Funny Adventure with Miss Paggs.

By Ashley Sterne.

My life has been recently blighted, and the blighter is Miss Paggs. To put the whole case in a nutshell, we are engaged, and letters of condolence may be addressed to me, care of the editor.

The affair is most exasperating, and was entirely unintentional on my part. I didn't want Miss Paggs; I'd much rather have had a pound of butter.

You remember that I spent a fortnight at Dazzleton with the Paggs's? Well, Archie Paggs got engaged to the melon-faced girl he met on the pier, and when she moved off with her people to Drizzleton, Archie managed to wangle an invitation to spend a week with them.

Once again he sought my aid to dispose of his sister, though had I seen where my good nature was to lead me I would sooner have given myself up to the police for any old criminal they wanted.

However, I accepted the onus,. and on the day Archie went off with the Melon Plantation to Drizzleton, I and Miss Paggs started back to town.

To keep her occupied on the journey I bought her a box of marsh mallows, a sweet of which I am very fond.

Considering my forethought, I was somewhat disappointed to find that Miss Paggs did not like marsh mallows. They made her teeth ache, she explained. I was glad I had not bought – as I nearly did – a book of chess problems for her. She'd have probably said they gave her earache.

As it was, I was rather hard put to amuse her. There were no other occupants of the carriage, otherwise I might have borrowed an illustrated paper or a magazine for her. However, she got out an unfinished jumper and employed herself with that. All went well, comparatively speaking, until we entered a long tunnel.

For some reason the electric light failed to come on, and I at once got up, in my customary polite manner, to close the window. But no sooner had I got to my feet in the darkness and put out my hand for the window-strap than I suddenly found my arm full of Paggs.

I thought at first she had also risen to close the window, but when she placed her head on my shoulder and her other arm round my neck, I could only think that the marsh mallows had gone to her head, until I remembered that she hadn't had any.

I tried to disentangle myself and push Miss Paggs back into her seat, but only succeeded in whisking something floppy through the window. Then she started whispering in my ear:  "Oh, darling! At last! When I saw you rise with outstretched arms to come to me! But why did you wait for the stupid old tunnel? We've had the carriage to ourselves for the last hour."

Me wait for the tunnel! Ye gods! I realised the horrible mistake she had made, and for a moment dreadful thoughts flashed through my mind.

Miss Paggs continued to blither in my ear, though I haven't the faintest idea what she was talking about, except that she took it for granted that I loved her. When I remembered how she had thrown me into the middle of a Jazz band, pitched me off my motor cycle, and almost drowned me whilst rescuing her from jelly-fish, I really could not see what grounds she had for her assumption, and I laughed out loud.

''I'm so glad it's made you happy, too!" she murmured. "Kiss me, darling." I hastily swallowed the marsh mallow I had been masticating, and kissed her. I understand that I performed this ceremony on her ear, but, as I told her later, the tunnel was so infernally dark, anybody might have made the same slip.

When eventually the train emerged into daylight, the jumper had vanished. "It must have fallen out of the window in the tunnel," remarked my self-imposed fiancee.

"Intelligent garment!" I said to myself, wondering why I hadn't followed it.

"But never mind the silly old jumper," she continued. "I've got you now."

Yes, got me fairly – or rather unfairly.  To-morrow we are going to buy the engagement ring.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Fine Father's Day

For Father's Day my older son and his wife sent me this excellent tee shirt.  I was very pleased.  Just look at me smile!

My younger son accompanied me on a pleasant hike and then took me to a German restaurant, where he treated me to a lavish repast of salad with sweet mustard dressing, pork chops (Kassler Rippchen), spaetzle, and red cabbage.  For dessert we shared a tasty apple strudel.

A very fine Father's Day indeed!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

At Peace on the Hogback

I hiked the Dakota Ridge hogback trail this afternoon.  The photograph captures the view before me when I stopped at the halfway point to sit on a boulder and sip some water.  I was weary but not to the point of inattention (by which I mean that stupefied state I often fall into when exhausted), and I was in a peaceful mood that allowed me to happily gaze at the slanting layers of rock without troubling myself with questions about geological history.